Indianapolis’s Phoenix Theatre has converted their downstairs performance space into an intimate cabaret for Claudia Shear’s one-woman play, "Blown Sideways Through Life." Small candle-lit tables dot the floor around a nicely raised stage in the darkened room.
Indianapolis based singer and pianist Deb Mullins opened the show with a short song filled set ranging from bluesy ballads to Joanie Mitchell songs. Most of Mullins pieces were done to prerecorded music, but she ended her performance at the keyboard.
Terre Haute based actress and Indiana State University professor Julie Dixon made her Phoenix Theatre debut in Claudia Shear’s monolog. Shear’s piece dashes through some and lingers over others of the sixty-five jobs that she had or had her as she lurched through life on the way to an acting and writing career.
As her story unraveled it seemed that she met many a bad job squarely with an equally bad attitude. Some didn’t last long enough and some lasted too long. The record for brevity was a job where she had time for two phone calls and an iced coffee before being let go.
Although Shear’s story was laced with humor, most of it was an account of dead end jobs around dead end people. There were up front and in-the-kitchen restaurant jobs, office jobs in and out of cubicles, and more than a few janitorial type assignments. We learned a good bit about the details of how a receptionist and business manager handles the callers and the employees of a whorehouse. Throughout the hour long monolog Julie Dixon is barefoot on a mostly bare stage. She plays Claudia Shear as an intensely self-involved woman who is somehow unconscious of how self-destructive she is. Her Claudia’s way of defending herself during all of the self-revelation was a set of recurring inner smiles and attempts to coquettishly woo the audience.
While much of "Blown Sideways Through Life" is a litany of failures, there were moments of triumph and even of insight. The one thing we didn’t learn anything about was how Shear became an actress and a playwright. Somehow in the whole catalog of activities in "Blown Sideways Through Life," neither writing nor theatre was ever mentioned.
"Blown Sideways Through Life" plays through February 27th at Indianapolis’s Phoenix Theatre.